The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that an individual whose Social Security number was released to the public by the government cannot collect damages because he cannot prove that the disclosure caused him actual harm. In the case, a miner making a claim of black lung disease to the Department of Labor found that some of the information on official agency documents, which included the claimant's Social Security number, was revealed to the public. The miner sued the department, claiming that he was entitled to $1,000 damages from the government under the Privacy Act of 1974. The Supreme Court has ruled that because the disclosure did not cause the miner actual harm, he may not recover damages. (Doe v. Chao, United States Supreme Court, No. 02-1377, 2004)

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